The Berkeley Rent Board Mailbag
Annual General Adjustments
(and other types of rent increases)
Q: I have a tenant whose water consumption has more than quadrupled. I, of course, am paying for the water, but I'd like to pass on the increases to the tenant. Is that possible?
Our advice would be to discuss the matter with the tenant, if you haven't already done so, to find out whether there is a leak and, if not, why his/her usage has increased. If there is no leak and you cannot reach an understanding with the tenant, you could petition the Rent Board to transfer responsibility for the water bill to the tenant with a corresponding rent ceiling decrease. In the alternative, you could petition for a rent ceiling increase; you would have to prove that the tenant is using more water than is reasonable for the number of occupants in the rental unit, and take the position that this constitutes an increase in services.
Q: I'm a landlord in Berkeley. Can I bank the Annual General Adjustments (AGAs) I'm granted each year, or do I risk losing the increases if I don't charge them immediately?
You can "bank" AGAs, by not raising the rent on January 1st even though you are authorized to do so, and then increase the rent at a later time. As long as the rental unit is in compliance, the rent ceiling will be automatically adjusted in the Board's database. You can raise the rent to the rent ceiling at any time provided you give the tenants a written, 30-day notice of a rent increase. However, if the amount of the increase is greater than 10% of the lowest rent during the previous 12 months, California Civil Code Section 827(b)(3) requires you to give your tenants a 60-day written notice.
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